Sneezing is a rather common part of life—studies show that
on average people sneeze about four times per day (Why someone would be
studying this is beyond me…). Happening as frequently as it does, it’s no
surprise that there are traditions built up around a sneeze. Often, you will hear
someone respond to a sneeze with the words, “Bless you,” short for the prayer,
“May God bless you.”
The reason for such a blessing following a sneeze is not
known for sure, but there are suggestions. One option is that the sneeze is
thought to push your soul momentarily outside your body, and the prayer is a
request that God guard your soul against Satan until it can return to the body.
Another possibility from medieval times (when one sign of bubonic plague infection
was a sneezing fit), is that the church encouraged this prayer for others
anytime a sneeze happened, fearing that death from the plague was imminent.
Whatever the origin, “bless you” is a concise, yet powerful,
prayer. In that short phrase, we are asking that the Lord would… what? What are
we actually asking for when we ask God to “bless” someone? I suspect we all
have a general sense of what we are asking for—good things, kindness, mercy,
and so forth. Of course, we get that general sense from the Scripture itself.
It is God who announces His intention to bless. Indeed, blessing God’s people
is an important part of our worship together.
“Benediction” is Latin for “good word” or “good speaking.” When
the pastor speaks a benediction, he is blessing the congregation with a final
“good word”: a good word intended to wrap up all that has been happening during
the worship service, and a good word which should spur us on to godliness,
service, and adoration throughout the week. The benediction of a Hebron worship
service is sometimes a summary statement of the Scripture, sometimes a charge
and/or encouragement, sometimes a passage from the Bible.
The classic benediction in Scripture is in Numbers 6:22-27
where Moses is explicitly commanded by God to bless God’s people with words you
might be familiar with: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His
face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord life up His countenance
upon you and give you peace.” The essence of this benediction is the announcement
of God’s blessing, His grace and peace—all wrapped up with the promise of His
very Presence with His people.
A benediction is intended to bless, and so this week in
worship we will give a “benediction” to this past year and look forward to the
one coming. For many of us, thinking of the past year in terms of blessing will
not be very easy—it certainly has been a challenge! But, as we attend to the
Word in Scripture, we will, I trust, hear God’s blessings and be able to carry
them into the future.
Join us for worship this Sunday as we explore a marvelous Scriptural
benediction, Numbers 6:22-27.
1. In verse 22, God directs Moses to bless the people. But
the blessing is a request that God Himself do something. Why do you think God
desires Moses to verbally say something to the Israelites, instead of God just
2. Notice that it seems like the blessing itself is in
hearing the words. In other words, Moses and Aaron bless the people by saying
the blessing to them. Why would hearing the words be a blessings?
3. List out the three couplets in the blessing. There are
six elements here, grouped together in three lines. What holds the couplets
together? Why join each pair together?
4. What does it mean to ask the Lord to “keep you” (vs. 24)?
5. To “lift up your countenance” means to look upon someone
with favor. What would it look like if the Lord “looked on you with favor”?
6. In verse 27, God explains that by giving the benediction, Moses and Aaron will “put God’s name upon them.” What does it mean to have God’s name upon you? Why would this be a blessings?